Written By: Adam Dince
Last week, I listened to Howard Stern give one of his trademark interviews with rock legend, Neil Young. After Howard played a snippet of Buffalo Springfield’s “Mr. Soul,” Neil pointed out that it only took him five minutes to write it.
My dad was a jazz pianist and passed his love of music on to me. And as an amateur songwriter myself, I never miss an opportunity to listen when a legend opens up about his or her craft. One of the common experiences many artists share about songwriting is that hit songs sort of write themselves and manifest quickly.
I’ve noticed that with my own songwriting. When I feel that itch to write: I’ll sit at the piano, close my eyes and start playing improvised chord progressions. I know it’s going to be a song I love, when a few chords start blending together in a way that connects me to the music. After a few repetitions of the chord combinations, I’ll start humming a melody where lyrics seem to fit in. Then, the words begin to flow out and tell the story the behind the music.
“Songwriting is a very mysterious process. It feels like creating something from nothing. It’s something I don’t feel like I really control.” – Tracy Chapman
If I try to force a out song that’s not driven from creative inspiration, it usually sucks and gets buried in the list of pieces I’ll never play for anyone.
I believe that like a hit song, great articles and stories write themselves. When a creative idea inspires you to write. When you feel like there’s something you’ve got to get off your chest, that won’t rest until it’s on paper. When you’ve got a point-of-view that’s so important to share, everything else takes second place. That’s when the magic happens.
“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” – Ernest Hemingway
Unfortunately, as writers, we don’t always have the luxury of waiting until inspiration strikes. We’re often bogged down with tight deadlines and topics that our publishers have already predestined in their content calendars. Many times, this results in an inorganic writing process that nets in “good enough” articles–not hits. Even if our audience thinks the content rocks–deep down we know it’s not our best.
That’s why I totally dig it when I’m able to let the creative juices flow and write what’s begging to come out. When the boundaries and limitations are removed, and I’m free to let the story write itself.
“Writing is a bit like surfing . . . Most of the time you’re waiting. And it’s quite pleasant, sitting in the water waiting. But you are expecting that the result of a storm over the horizon, in another time zone, usually, days old, will radiate out in the form of waves. And eventually, when they show up, you turn around and ride that energy to the shore. It’s a lovely thing, feeling that momentum. If you’re lucky, it’s also about grace. As a writer, you roll up to the desk every day, and then you sit there, waiting, in the hope that something will come over the horizon. And then you turn around and ride it, in the form of a story.” ― Tim Winton